Gainesville City Council is working to update its law on guns in parks to comply with a 2010 state law allowing the carrying of a firearm as long as the person has a valid carry license.
City code has prohibited people from having items such as shotguns, air rifles, bows and explosive substances in a park.
The new city code, once approved, would ban from parks all weapons except guns. Other weapons still would not be allowed to be discharged or exploded on or over park property, but firearms can be discharged in certain conditions and situations, including self-defense, with a governmental permit or as part of a historical re-enactment.
Gainesville resident Caroline Rodriguez was playing with her 2-year-old daughter Nathalie on Friday at Longwood Park. She said she wouldn’t feel safe with someone carrying a gun in the park or having a park visitor keeping a gun in their car.
“I don’t think guns and parks should mix,” she said. “Parks are intended for people to come and relax and for the children to be in a safe environment.”
Rodriguez said she owned a gun for personal security for about five years, but turned it in to the Gainesville Police Department because she was afraid her toddler or her 16-year-old would start playing with it.
“Especially when you have a teenager around, even though you teach them the safety of a gun, it’s not the gun that does the damage, it’s who is handling the gun and I don’t feel safe having the gun in my house.”
Rodriguez was in the military and feared for her safety when she was stationed in Panama City, Fla. But she said she feels safe living in Gainesville and she and her neighbors watch out for each other.
“We did research on where we wanted to live and where we wanted to buy the house, and that played a big role in my decision to turn in the gun,” Rodriguez said.
Maria Rodriguez, not related to Caroline, was also at Longwood last week. Not a gun owner, the Gainesville resident said parks are for kids to play and adding firearms to the environment could be dangerous.
“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of places to carry a gun because its dangerous,” she said. “But a park is to have fun.”
Not everyone felt the same way about firearms in parks. Ed Benner and his wife, Debbie, who were exercising at Longwood, said it didn’t bother them.
“It’s part of what being an American is,” Ed Benner said. “I think if you’re licensed, you should be allowed to carry a gun.”
Ed Benner said he owns multiple types of firearms and has a license to carry a concealed weapon. He said he has hiked with a weapon for personal protection. A Buford woman was killed in 2008 while hiking in Vogel State Park in North Georgia.
“There’s some scary people out there,” Ed Benner said. “I think it’s fine to carry a gun if you’re licensed.”
A previous version of this story included incorrect information about the status of the code change, which is not final until a second reading by the City Council.